I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately, and I’ve come to a new conclusion: our old definitions don’t work.
I saw a YouTube video the other day produced by an atheist. He’d been on a Christian website, where he’d read that God answers prayers in one of three ways: yes, no, or wait. He then pointed out that you could pray to a gallon jug of milk, asking for a new car, and have the exact same result.
You know what? He made a good point.
So–stay with me here–I’ve decided that prayer is the primary process through which God conforms us to his will.
If God exists outside of time, and everything He will do is as real to him as the things he has done and is doing– (He is the “I AM,” after all)–
If every “day of my life” is recorded in his book as Scripture says it is–
Since my free will is limited by his design, and his power is limited only by his own being (he can’t do only the things it is impossible for him to do)–
Then everything I would/could/do pray for has already been decreed. So why pray?
First, because he has ordained that our prayers spur his actions. That’s his chosen way of operation, to keep us close and in communication.
Second, because we are to pray according to his will. (1 John 5:14) When we don’t receive what we pray for, it’s because we “ask amiss.” (James 4:3)
When I don’t receive the healing for my sick friend, it’s not that God told me “no.” It’s that He taught me to realize and remember that my sick friend has been healed and she’s alive and well in heaven. When God doesn’t heal my physical complaint, it’s because he wants me to learn patience in suffering, or perhaps to commiserate with others. When God doesn’t bring the prodigal home right away, it’s because he’s teaching his precious child . . . or letting them reach the place where they have nowhere to look but up. Prayer is all about changing my character and molding me into the image of Christ . . . and that’s far beyond the power of a jug of milk.
So many people think that prayer is simply presenting a laundry list of petitions to God (witness Hollywood movies like “Bruce Almighty” where the protagonist is kept hopping to answer prayers like a fairy godfather), and it’s not that at all. It’s unburdening our hearts to him, and then throwing ourselves upon him in faith by declaring, “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. In my life. In my family.”
I think I can live by this. 🙂 I know I can rest in it.